ST. LOUIS - Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Ovechkin.
Both offensively-gifted Russian players, one is already established and the other is still making a name for himself.
Tonight they go head-to-head for the first time this season when the Blues and Washington Capitals face off at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX).
“(Tarasenko) is a great player. He’s a heck of a player. He’s a difference maker,” Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said recently. “There’s probably as many players in the League that have as many goals as him, but not as many important goals. Those goals either win us hockey games, bring us back in hockey games, things like that. His sense of timing for me is the most important part for the team. He’s done a great job.”
“I think Vladi admires a lot of guys that have come out of Russia. Ovechkin’s one of those guys that he’s looked up to,” defenseman Barret Jackman added. “I think Vladi’s going to have some fun. He’s really going to take it to the next level.”
In fact, he already has. Through 16 games this season, Tarasenko has 10 goals and 11 assists (21 points).
The Capitals are beginning a three-game road trip tonight. Last night, they fell 1-0 to the New Jersey Devils at home, but previously had won three straight.
“Ovechkin is very dangerous and Backstrom is up there with the best players in the League,” Jackman said. “When you have a team like this that has so many weapons, it’s fun to rise to the challenge.”
Longtime Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz is behind the bench now for Washington. Hitchcock said he sees some of the same defensive strategies he’s come to expect from Nashville, but offensively, the Capitals still pose a big threat.
“Their skill in the middle of the ice is obviously evident offensively. I don’t think anything’s changed there,” Hitchcock said. “It’s still a team that if you expect to beat them, you’re going to have to keep the game 5-on-5 as many minutes as you can. You don’t want to allow their best players to get an extra skater out there.”
BLUES MAKE A MOVE
After the morning skate, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong announced the team had traded defenseman Jordan Leopold to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick in 2016.
Leopold had appeared in seven games for the Blues this season.
“Where Jordan is, he wants to continue to play. As a seventh defenseman, his ice time was going to be predicated on injuries,” Armstrong said. “I think it’s a difficult time obviously for Jordan to be moving, but I think it’s going to help get him on the ice on a regular basis in Columbus. It’s also going to relieve some cap space for us going forward.”
Armstrong said the Blues would recall defenseman Chris Butler from the Chicago Wolves.
Watch Armstrong's comments from earlier this morning by clicking here.
The Blues are 3-2-0 in their last five games against the Washington Capitals at Scottrade Center.
Since 2010-11, the Blues are a League-best 41-10-4 in interconference play. Since losing on Oct. 9 to the New York Rangers, the Blues have gone 4-0-0 against the Eastern Conference.
Paul Stastny has six points in his last four games against the Capitals.
The first 10,000 fans to donate a canned good item at tonight’s game will receive a Blues T-shirt courtesy of Schnucks and Pepsi.